City pays tribute to Melinda PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 13:30

City Planning and Development Coordinator Melinda Cabato was finally laid to rest yesterday, 9 days after she succumbed to colon cancer last January 21.

The interment at the Forest Lake Memorial Park in Tumaga took place after the city government paid tribute to the late executive department extolling her contributions to the city of Zamboanga and her dedication and commitment to public service.

Mayor Celso Lobregat led in the tribute during necrological services held at the City Hall lobby. Other people who spoke about their fondest memories of the late Cabato were Engr. Rodrigo Sicat, Assistant City Planning and Development Coordinator; Planning Officer IV Ofelia Despalo; City Health Officer Dr. Rodelin Agbulos and sister-in-law Juliet Bocala. The department heads also gave a special tribute through a song number “Amigos Para siempre”, one of Cabato’s favorite songs when she was alive.

Mayor Lobregat in his tribute thanked Melinda for her untainted public service  saying “I have lost a hardworking, dedicated and quiet department head and a key member of my executive family.”

“We remember Melinda not only as an integral part of our Executive Branch; a constituent of this City; a woman; a wife; a mother and a grandmother, but more importantly for the kind and gentle human being that she really was,” Lobregat said in eulogy.

He described Melinda, who served the city government for 33 years, as Dedicated, unassuming, patient, lenient, quiet and shy.

Melinda started her career in the city government as an economic researcher in the same office way back in 1979 during the term of Mayor Vinnie Atilano. She was barely 23 years old then. Due to diligence and perseverance, she rose from the ranks to become a senior development analyst in 1987, a position she held until 1993, when she was promoted as Project Development Officer IV.

Nine years later, on April 25, 2002, during the administration of then Mayor Ma’am Caling, Melinda was promoted to Department Head II, being the City Planning and Development Coordinator, a position she served with dignity and diligence until her death on January 21, this year.

According to the mayor, also promoted during the time of Ma’am Caling were City Human Resource and Management Officer Erlina Sanchez, City Assessor Erwin Bernardo, City Treasurer Soledad Li, City Health Officer Dr. Rodel Agbulos, City Agriculturist Diosdado Palacat, City Environment and Natural Resources Officer Engr. Rey Gonzales, City Engineer Luis Despalo and City Registrar Atty. Eric Elias.

Melinda was the third department head to pass away during Lobregat’s administration. Former Councilor and City Administrator Ely Enriquez passed away in August 2008 while City Legal Officer Norberto Patriarca succumbed to lung cancer in September last year.

“She was not perfect as none of us are and she may have had certain shortcomings as all of us do, but she always strived to learn and adapt to the standards set by our administration for public service,” he said, adding that Melinda was devoted to her work, serving even beyond office hours to make his administration functional and responsive in as far as the Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator was concerned.

Lobregat recalled that the news about Melinda’s affliction with stage 4 cancer broke out last November, barely few days after she, Virgie, Sol and Bibing came from a vacation in Macau. “Who would ever thought that Melinda – always looking fit and strong, would have cancer? At the beginning Melinda was herself skeptic and was in a denial stage, but later she accepted her fate and showed the will to live by undergoing chemo treatment.”

Her condition deteriorated so fast but she continued to report for work. “When I distributed the extra bonus to city government officials and employees a few days before Christmas, I knew about her worsening condition and so I personally proceeded to her office at the City Hall Annex building to hand over her bonus and to ask how she was doing and how she was coping with the disease. I encouraged her to undergo further treatment in the hope of having her with us longer,” the mayor said.

Melinda, according to the chief executive, had steered her office productively that made Zamboanga City the 2011 Regional Winner of the “Gawad Pamana ng Lahi Award” with a P2 million cash prize. The award was bestowed by the DILG on LGUs with exemplary performance in governance, development planning and sound financial management. The award is truly an honor for the city, “for which I thank Melinda for being a big part of.”

“Melinda—you have left a void in the city government, which can never be replaced of your kind. You may be gone now, but the good memories of working with you under our administration will live on. We will surely miss you, but at the same time we find succor in your death, knowing that you are now in the hands of our Creator—free from pain and anxieties. Thank you so much for your untainted public service.  May God grant you safe journey,” Lobregat said in his eulogy for Malinda.

The mayor has issued Executive Order CL 436-2012 enjoining all offices, agencies and instrumentalities in the city to hoist the Philippine flag at half mast in honor of Melinda yesterday, while the City Council has passed a resolution citing Melinda’ contribution to the city, and expressing the city’s deepest condolences.

The late City Planning officer is survived by husband Romeo, children children Jarius, Jacius Joe and Jasper; daughters-in law Honey, Jacky and Yayang; grandchild Dono; siblings Amelia, Leticia, Alfredo, Virgilio and Ricardo, sister-in law Juliet, other in-laws and other relatives. — Vic Larato